Lyla’s journey to leading our community to build Camp Resilient

It is our goal at Camp Resilient to combine proven treatment models and Nature based therapies to create a space where service members, Veterans and their families can heal individually and together. A space where they can dictate the length of their walk forward without pressure or judgement. A space where nobody gets left behind. Let me tell you why that matters to me and why I stepped forward to lead this great community team that wants to help our military family become more resilient and whole again.

I was born and raised in a small town in Moore County, NC. It was so small that I always had to give the name of the nearest larger town and then say “20 miles west of there.” As most people are, I was convinced that life was happening every except in my little town as a child. I knew I always wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. Volunteering to serve my country felt natural, like breathing. Leaving home, my family, missing their milestones, and their deaths were not that hard parts. Coming home after each deployment was the hardest part.

Each time the space between us became wider. We were all strangers, failing to connect. Our wariness of each other was further compounded by my own inability to process and deal with my military experiences. I needed help, but I didn’t know how to ask for it and no one around me knew what to do. Recognizing that I was spiraling, I decided it was best to be away from everyone that knew me.

NC and my family no longer felt like home, so my solution was to leave. I found myself in Minnesota, near the Canadian border, going through the steps of a person whose life was “on track,” but I was simply going through the motions.  I was disconnected from family, friends, peers, and even those I served with. It was easy to act normal, bright and shiny for brief interactions and during quick trips back to NC, because I knew I would could escape back to the relative isolation of Northern MN.

The intensive therapy treatments I finally sought out at the VA helped to identify behavior patterns, but they did not help me move forward, stop the guilt, the pain or help me connect with my family. I may have been more informed about where I failed and why, but I still felt stuck. I would leave each appointment and immediately drive to the nearest park. Needing to put space between me and the truth. At every opportunity, regardless of the weather I would go by myself to the local walking trails or state parks. The woods allowed me to lose myself. To take a break from reality. Let my mind wonder. Momentarily the outdoors stopped my brain from running multiple “what if” scenarios of events and outcomes that could not and can never be altered. 

I have returned to NC and I have left behind most traditional models of therapy. Most of my time is spent outside. I cannot say that I am “better” or “completely healed,” as my walk has been a battle of inches and there are still miles to go. Since being back I have realized that though my time in service has ended, my call to lead a life of service has not.

I want to help stop broken marriages, alcoholism, absent parents, self-medicating, and suicides from being viewed as regrettable, but inevitable and even somehow acceptable losses. I don’t want another black memorial bracelet to add to the others. We know nature-based therapy works—join us.